[ No.72 of my favourite short poems ]
After all the recent talk of LOVE surrounding VALENTINE’s DAY, here is a very down-to-earth poem by what we could perhaps call a no-nonsense down-to earth poet, U.A.Fanthorpe.
Born in 1928, Ursula Askham (normally using just her initials, U.A.), Fanthorpe, died, aged 79, in 2009, near her home in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire. After studying at Oxford University, she went on to teach English at Cheltenham Ladies’ College for sixteen years, before giving up teaching. She was aged 50 before her first collection of poems was published, having noted, quite precisely, that “On 18 April 1974 I started writing poems”. She was later made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a CBE in 2001 for services to poetry. In 2003 she received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.
Perhaps her best known poem is ‘Atlas’. The poem presents a far-from-romantic view of LOVE. Certainly a positive, worthwhile, and all the more powerful for that, view of the realities of a truly loving relationship . . .
‘ATLAS’ . . . by U. A. Fanthorpe
There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.
UA Fanthorpe, from ‘Safe as Houses’ (Peterloo Poets, 1995)